Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Filmmaker's Showcase

Last night, the K-man and I met Ronnie and Jeff in Westport to attend the Filmmaker's Showcase at the Kansas City Gay and Lesbian Film Festival hosted by the Tivoli Theater. We hit Joe's Pizza for a slice before the screening. Good pizza in a tiny little shop behind Kelly's Westport Inn. Kelly's is the cornerstone of Westport's bar scene and is the unofficial headquarters of the annual St. Patrick's Day blowout.

We headed into the theater and after being given a complimentary Ghirardelli chocolate, found our seats. I did have Keith snap a pic of the movie poster print for The Bicycle Thief(pictured at left)...I love the Italian film posters that decorate the theater lobby. The 2010 Out Here Now Filmmaker's Showcase film was You Should Meet My Son written and directed by Keith Hartman. Keith Hartman first gained notice with his thought-provoking and very funny YouTube videos about Prop 8 and these were shown before the film began. I won't go into a detailed review of the film itself. Please check out Ronnie's terrific blog Cinematherapy for a full synopsis.....it's listed under My Blog List at right. Ronnie says it best when he calls the film a hoot....a hoot it was, with two instantly classic characters in sisters Rose and Mae. I, of course, appreciated that many of the best scenes took place at the dinner table...including a reference to Miss Salsa Roja's huevos.

The highlight for me, though, was sitting two rows behind the filmmaker during the screening. Mr. Hartman introduced the film and admitted he was terrified to bring the film there in it's current state. The film was still raw and a work-in-progress. Film festival director Jamie Rich convinced him to bring it anyway and therefore we became the Midwest test audience. We also discovered that we were the first large audience to screen the film. The film indeed had sound issues as Mr. Hartman had already informed us but it didn't subtract from the overall joy it brought. While I certainly enjoyed the screening, I kept stealing looks at Mr. Hartman. It was fascinating watching him light up as certain lines brought big laughs and wince when the sound was flawed. I found myself nervous for him and then elated for him when the movie brought a positive response. Following the screening, an informal Q & A was held with the director and we were allowed to delve further into his creative process. In the end, it was a great night for filmmaker and audience alike. Check out the film's website at http://www.youshouldmeetmyson.com/You_Should_Meet_My_Son/Main.html.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Justus for Ronnie

Last night, we shared a delectable evening with Ronnie and Jeff celebrating Ronnie's birthday. We met at Ronnie's to start out the evening with a Kir, a traditional French apertif consisting of a splash of Creme de Cassis with a glass of white wine.











We moved on to one of our favorite KC-area food havens, Justus Drugstore, A Restaurant in Smithville. Ronnie teaches in Smithville, but this was he and Jeff's first visit to Justus. I've written about this den of deliciousness before (see Justus Drugstore post in 2009) so I'll try not to overly wax rhapsodic about it....but once again it was quite the experience. We started off with the Elixir of the Day (pictured above right)....an artisanal cocktail made of blueberry-infused gin, cucumber juice and other fresh ingredients topped off with an elderflower garnish. We were presented with an amuse-bouche (pictured below right)...chicken pate on crostini topped off with blueberry foam. Our starter course was the ever-popular Farmer's Platter (pictured at the top of the page). Some of the components of this dish were familiar from our last visit....the wild-persimmon spiced rabbit terrine with mustard, the pickled vegetables, the gaufrette potatoes (thin, mandolin sliced, lace-patterned chips). Some were new and audacious to boot....like bone marrow mousse with brioche toast points. This platter was and is utterly fascinating to me. Layers and layers of flavors.

Jeff tried the Goat Cheese Fritter salad and raved about it...local goat cheese and mixed greens with a white-wine shallot vinaigrette. Our entrees arrived and they were all amazing. Jeff chose the Special(pictured below left): Goose breast with a cherry-basil sauce. I went with the Majinola American Kobe Beef Brisket (pictured below right) cooked in a house-brewed root beer braise, celery root puree, greens in a honey-sassafras vinaigrette and these amazing carrots glazed in smoked vanilla butter. I went with the server's suggestion of a Catena Zapata Malbec to accompany this. Ronnie and Keith selected the Campo Lindo Roast Chicken (pictured above right), which is half a roasted chicken served over housemade duck egg pasta with a delicious black pepper lemon herbed creme fraiche mousse.

Between the four of us, we covered most of the bases on the dessert list. Ronnie chose the Berry Napoleon; blackberries and raspberries with vanilla wafers and white chocolate creme served with double-lemon ice cream. Keith got the Blueberry Crumble made with fresh blueberries, vanilla honey, cinnamon blueberry Chantilly cream and served with basil(!) ice cream. Jeff selected the Strawberry Trio (pictured above right) which looked like a sculpture from the Nelson-Atkins museum and actually required instructions on how to eat it. This dessert consisted of a strawberry marshmallow in a chocolate torte cup with basil poached strawberries, toasted almonds and strawberry ganache. I, of course, went with the chocolate selection...the Chocolate Mint Decadence (pictured above left) that consisted of chocolate ganache, chocolate rose-hip ice cream, Champagne mousse and a glass of mint milk topped with malted Chantilly cream. The server capped off our evening with an after-dinner drink she surprised us with that was a small glass of white wine with a touch of honey-black pepper syrup.

Whew. I'm as exhausted from writing about this as I was from eating it. But make no mistake....it was the most satisfying form of exhaustion. In summary, let me say again I am no critic and don't pretend to be. I'm not knowledgeable enough. I simply have a great appreciation and fascination with food. The four of us essentially swooned appreciatively throughout all of our courses. The main reason I really love Justus Drugstore is that it totally opens the guest up to the possibilities of food and it's abilities to not just satisfy us but to also fascinate us and even challenge us(like the bone marrow mousse). It's an absolute palate-teasing, mind-bender of a meal. They don't just use all local ingredients, they make magic with them. Check them out at http://www.drugstorerestaurant.com/justus.php?id=1.

The night concluded on a hilarious note. When we left, K and I wanted to show Ronnie and Jeff the bar area. The bartender is a wizard with fresh made cocktails and we wanted to show them his copious bottles of ingredients. As we admired the bottles and containers of fresh herbs, an older gentleman asked us what we were looking at. We told him we were looking at the bar's potions and herbs to which the man said the woman with him was a whiz with potions. She then wordlessly performed this weaving dance on her barstool while waving her hands at us. We were about to think she was casting a spell on us when those dancing hands found their way to Ronnie's shirt and started essentially feeling him up. By the time the gentleman barked "Goddammit, Karen.." we slipped out the door. The birthday boy got fed AND felt up for his big day.....and the night was complete as we were in hysterics all the way home.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Waterfest and Broadway and Penn

I went to Excelsior last night and braved the thick humidity to hang with the K-man at one of the town's primo festivals..... Waterfest. We kicked off with a delish dinner at Willow Spring Mercantile. The lovely Daphne sold me on a hoppy Weston microbrew called Drop-Kick Ale. The brew and our refreshing Fruit and Cheese sampler were perfect tonics for the heat. We then devoured our Roast Beef Gyros with red onion, red bell pepper hummus, tzatziki sauce and feta cheese on a warm pita....yuh-hum. I know I've put up the website address before but I'm gonna keep doing it so everyone will go.....http://www.shopthemercantile.com/default.html

Fortified, we moved back to the heat where Keith had to return to official duty at the Waterfest table, so I scurried down to finally check out the newest entry to the downtown canvas. When I opened the door to vintage wonderland Broadway and Penn, I was nothing short of blown away. One of my favorite ES residents, Lisa McElwee has been working along with her family for some time to create this very special space and indeed the result is just fantastic. The look and the feel are all about vintage and it's captured perfectly. Exposed brick, wood floors and a striking centerpiece of hanging antique window frames all contribute to the homey atmosphere. The long wooden bar and retro decor complete the comforting picture. I loved the vintage kitchen goods. The utter thrill for me, though, was Lisa's goal for the space......a classic coffee bar and inspired food lines as well as an impressive selection of kitchen aprons, both vintage and new.....and so, so much more. I've known Lisa for a while. She's a Force of Nature, abundant with vision and creativity and she's been dreaming of a place of her own for some time. Girlfriend has done it in style. Stay tuned and watch this space.....big things will be coming to Broadway and Penn and soon. Check them out at http://www.broadwayandpenn.com/default.html.

With vintage themes dancing in the brain, it was inevitable we would finish the night with classic carnival food....the Almighty Funnel Cake and some fresh-squeezed lemonade. Funnel cakes and fireworks.....fine way to finish a hot summer night.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sharing Meals Through Technology

Friends and family have been supporting my blogging endeavors in the best way....by sharing their culinary adventures and photographing their dining experiences. I've been getting great pics and synopses by text, Tweet and Facebook. Join the party....

My friend Linda visited an interesting hybrid in Omaha recently...the Jaipur Indian restaurant and brewpub. This pic is of an Jalapeno ale (pictured at left) that was included in a beer sampler they offered. Linda raved about most of the beers as well as the food but said this ale got the better of them...very spicy! Visit their site at http://www.jaipurbrewhouse.com/


Sarah Jane sent me a pic of the French Provencial sandwich (pictured at right) she enjoyed at Bluegrass Kitchen in Charleston, WV. My friend Julie Britton Haden spoke of this place in her Foodie Five. The sandwich is on Artisan Ciabatta bread with artichoke hearts, a homemade organic pumpkin seed pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado spread, organic greens, goat cheese and provolone. SJ ordered it with free-range chicken. Bluegrass Kitchen specializes in vegetarian and omnivorous dishes using WV and Appalachian ingredients. The owners also own the Empty Glass, still my all-time fave live music joint as well as Tricky Fish, serving "locally-grown beach-shack food" which SJ also raves about. I can't wait to check this place out. Check them out at http://bluegrasswv.com/

Ronnie and Jeff recently returned from their trip to France and Ronnie was kind enough to take pics of his food
and post them on his Facebook page. The first pic is of some yummy-looking Afghan food (pictured at left) he ate there.....zucchini in a curried tomato and yogurt sauce. The second pic (top of the page at right) is of a decadent chocolate cake (torte?) with chocolate mousse on a hazelnut crust he had at the Eiffel Tower.

We'll be joining the boys for Ronnie's birthday dinner at Justus Drugstore tomorrow night....stay tuned!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day


Happy Father's Day to my Dad. Tough when he needed to be, goofy when he wanted to be and charming as all get out. He's at home being taken care of by my sister. His mind and body are failing and he worries about my Mom, his wife of nearly 70 years, who's in the rehab hospital. I hope Dad has a calm, easy-going day complete with some of his favorite foods.

This is is one of my favorite pics of Dad....laughin' it up with his brother, my Uncle Jack at a family reunion probably 15 years ago.

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dads out there.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tasty Tomes- NOLA Eats, Beekman Boys and The Last Call



I've read some delicious food writing lately and of course, want to share the literary love....

Hungry Town is written by Tom Fitzmorris and is a riveting, rollicking culinary history of New Orleans. New Orleans is the very definition of a food town. It's history is fascinating and the descriptions of the food are mouth-watering. The shot through the heart comes, of course, with the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the stories of the resident's struggle to overcome and re-open their businesses(or open new ones) leave you with a lump in your throat. The book is bittersweet in more ways than one...the stories of the lives and livelihoods Katrina stole are heartbreaking....but this book was released before the current tragedy of the BP oil spill. Reading about the wrenching survival tales post-Katrina while simultaneously watching the news reports on the heinous mess that has been inflicted on the region again leaves you feeling helpless and infuriated. The news story of the 134- year-old oyster company closing due to the spill just makes me sick....I guess they're an example of what the BP CEO would consider the "small people"....Ugh.

On a far lighter note, I recently finished The Bucolic Plague by Josh-Kilmer Purcell. I'd read his memoir I'm Not Myself These Days and really relished the bone-honest retelling of his drug-fueled days as an ad exec by day and drag performer by night. This book serves as a quasi-sequel that features he and his doctor beau's adventures becoming gentleman farmers and buying a historic mansion and farm. Again, Kilmer-Purcell's honesty is the highlight, whether he's talking about raising goats, his relationship with Dr. Brent or even Martha Stewart herself. This book is more biography than food writing but it certainly qualifies with it's tales of growing food, including that one perfect tomato. Since reading it, I've seen the first episode of the Planet Green series The Beekman Boys which continues their foray into farming. I had a goat named Betty for a brief time many moons ago and watching the Beekman's goats makes me want them again. I also can't believe I just put that into print as I've since turned Keith onto the book and he's been wanting to put us on a farm for years. As it is, he's constantly after me to allow chickens in our backyard and oh, did I mention the bees? Yeah, the K-man wants bees for honey as well. In the backyard. If I can get a rooster that crows songs like the Beekmans (Madonna at 6 am anyone?), well , maybe....


My current read is Last Call, Daniel Okrent's ripping history of the rise and fall of Prohibition. I'm only halfway through it but so far it's an amazing read. The incisive look at all of the characters involved makes the book an absorbing read... I will elaborate further when I finish it. I'm simultaneously reading Anthony Bourdain's new book Medium Raw. That will require it's own post when I finish it. I just can't easily sum up Anthony Bourdain.

One quick, final note...I was skimming through the latest Mental Floss book which is a collection of interesting facts called In The Beginning. I'm a fan of the Mental Floss magazine(I'm a trivia geek), not to mention the awesome Mental Floss board game that Ronnie and Jeff turned me on to. One section of the book is dedicated to food and drink. Did you know....

As early as 610 AD at either an Italian or French monastery, monks would bake little treats for their students to reward them for learning their scriptures. The monks would bake them to resemble pious children praying, with three holes in the center to represent the Holy Trinity....and the pretzel was born. Well, whaddya know...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Malay Cafe

Tuesday I met Jane, our long-lost friend Jeana and fresh-from-France Ronnie at the Malay Cafe for lunch. Jeana used to work with us and we hadn't gotten to spend any quality time with her for quite awhile. Between catching up with her and Ronnie's tales from his trip to Paris(he brought me more cornichons...yum), we had much to catch up on...and catch up we did over some marvelous Malaysian cuisine at Malay Cafe.

I, as usual, was the untested property at Malay. The others had all been and had all raved as had many of my other friends. Malay Cafe is located in a non-descript strip mall on Barry Road. I could see how it could be overlooked...I've driven that road many times and never noticed that it was there. The food, however, inspires a cult following. Soon, I learned why...

I have to say I learned one valuable lesson eating here. If I'm going to continue to write about my favorite food havens, I need to step it up and either bring a notebook or aggressively ask my servers about ingredients(and frankly, servers got enough goin' on to have to indulge my relentless questioning)...or both. I've relied too much on returning to a restaurant's website and online menu and in this case, I've yet to find both. I had to consult a 2007 review from the Pitch for some enlightenment...God bless Charles Ferruzza.

The questioning was rebuffed right off the bat. The first item we were served was a savory and spicy broth with vegetables(pictured at right). We asked what the soup was called and what it's base was. We were emphatically told it was just "lunch soup...with Malaysian spices." So be it. Sometimes ya just gotta know when to shut up and eat.

Jane ordered two Malaysian samplers(pictured at left) which were heaping platters of deep-fried loveliness. Hearty egg rolls, tiny shrimp purses, satays, coconut shrimp and cheesy wontons were split amongst us. Jane clued me into mixing the sweet Asian chili sauce and the peanut sauce to make for some tasty dipping. These were yummy but the highlights were yet to come...

My entree was the spicy Black Pepper Beef (pictured below right) which was chock-full of tender beef in a peppery sauce with crunchy vegetables and a sizable side of jasmine and curry rice. Ronnie got the Royal Almond Chicken( pictured top center) which is the house specialty and it was wonderful....chicken in a sweet, honey-like sauce and almond slivers. Jeana's was the Mas Chicken which I believe had a black bean sauce(see? I needed a notebook). We all gave samples to each other. Truly, this was outstanding food....and the portions were enormous. My seven dollar lunch also became my dinner.

Malay Cafe's cuisine has been characterized as a mix of Chinese and Indonesian influences. I've also seen it referred to as 'Chinese with a kick.' The Malaysian spices really kick it up and I loved every bit of it. The Cult of Malay just added a new member.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heritage


My mother was hospitalized yesterday as she has lost all feeling in her legs and feet and has become completely wheelchair-bound. They will be keeping her for a bit as they need to run tests to find out the source of her issues. In the meantime, my sister continues to care for my father and travel back and forth to the hospital. While I know I did my own caregiving stint in the first few months of the year, I feel once again as if I'm not doing enough. The weight of guilt is again heavy and stagnant and I feel every mile I'm apart from them. My heart just bleeds for all of my family.

As my thoughts reside with my folks, I'm reminded of my last post speaking of eating the beef that came from the cattle Keith's Dad raise. I think of the ever-worsening physical and mental battles my parents wage and so I remind myself of the hearty stock from which they came. Both of my parents come from a long line of self-sustainers; of proud farming families who fed their many children from the food they grew and raised themselves. My great-grandfather Abe Haught(pictured top left, who I just learned was adopted...there's an ancestry.com adventure in the making) was renowned for his bountiful gardens and orchards. He would not only provide for his family but for many of the neighbors as well. My grandparents on both sides had large families and lots of mouths to feed. While sometimes it was a mad scramble for who got what, no one went hungry, even in the worst of times such as the Depression.

My grandfather Rinehart(with Grandma Agatha at left), my Mother's father, would come home from a bone-weary day in the coal mines and head straight for his gardens. He'd work just as hard in those gardens but this seemed to be more therapeutic for him...as it would be for my Mom and Dad and as it is today for Keith. Grandpa Rinehart would also provide for many of the neighbors as well. Sometimes he would drop off fresh vegetables to folks and other times Grandma(pictured at right in later years as feisty as ever) would invite people to the house for a big party where she would cook up a feast from their bountiful gardens for everybody.



My dad's parents, Arzie and Grace(at left at 50th wedding anniversary), also raised their own food in gardens where all the kids would work. My Dad and his siblings have decades of memories of the gardens and of their mother Grace in the kitchen. Grandma Grace(pictured top right as a young girl), a gentle, soft-spoken woman was forever cooking in the kitchen, often ignored while Grandpa Arzie held court in the living room but I believe the kitchen is where she found her own personal comfort as so many in my family did and do. Her small smile was the same one she wore as a grandmother...I always felt she bore the weight of the world. The brief time I knew her she always made sure there were fresh-baked cookies ready for me. God bless her, she also made sure they were chocolate-chip even though she was known for her raisin cookies. I didn't have any of my grandparents in my life for long and I will always regret not knowing them better.

My parents continued with their own gardens. My mother's flower gardens were always lush and widely admired. My father raised a wonderful vegetable garden every year and we impatiently awaited the bounty from it every summer. Sure enough, Dad would bag much of it up to share with neighbors, friends and strangers alike.

As the trend which will hopefully evolve into more than a trend evolves celebrating heritage foods and the farm-to-table movement, I am reminded of the trials my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents weathered and the lives they enriched simply by growing their own food and being kind to their fellow man.

Watching my parent's struggles, I remind myself of what truly powerful human beings they have been and of the powerful lineage from which they came. I will just have to keep praying for us all to find the strength that's kept the family going for generations.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Beef. It's What's For Dinner.

We grilled and shared some delicious T-Bone steaks with Keith's parents this weekend. They were the perfect folks to share them with as the beef that we used is from the cattle Keith's Dad Kenny raises. We are blessed to not only have to shop for beef throughout the year but to have a freezer packed with beef from a trusted source. In that respect among others, we've gotten to experience "farm to table" for many years now. In addition to the hearty steaks, Keith's Mom Helen whipped up a tasty pasta salad, some peaches and cream corn on the cob and a yummy strawberry pie(I had to work).

This dinner followed the project that precipitated the parental visit: kitchen renovation. We bought a new countertop and stainless steel sink as our previous versions were eroding in multiple ways. The plumbing alone vexed Ken a bit and the trip to the house with the goods in the truck were beset by torrential rains but after numerous trips to Lowe's the deed was done and the result was fantastic. Dinner was cooked in the interim, however, and that necessitated some prep in the guest bathroom sink. After Thanksgiving's dishwasher breakdown, the Winges have become used to cooking improv on the fly.We are extraordinarily grateful to Ken for yet another masterful use of his talents. We are very blessed to have them both in our lives, no doubt.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Artful Crawler



The latest Excelsior Springs Art Crawl was Friday night and as always, artistic intrigue popped up in various ways about town. The first point of interest for me which had nothing to do with the Art Crawl occurred on a walk to Keith's new office in the Hall of Waters. I thought I had toured all of the accessible areas of the Art Deco wonder but found that en route to the office there were areas of the old spa I had never seen. Along the way, we encountered one of the old steam cabinets that one would sit in with one's head visible outside the box. I was also shown the Scotch Douche. Now the name of this device was enough to cause me to raise my eyebrows(and yes, snicker like the juvenile I am). The sight of it was even more alarming as it appeared to be a form of medieval water torture or something that would Simonize you inside and out. After researching it, I realized it was used to combine high-pressure alternating hot and cold water jets to treat ailments on the body. It is also the contraption that the Chief throws through the window in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Not unlike the Vichy showers we have at the Elms, which happen to involve my favorite spa treatment there but also can create a powerful Water Wedgie.

Onward to Gallery 105 to check out the exhibits....Jan Preston's layered, intricate work was on display for the last night and that's she and her guitarist husband pictured in front of her work. I also met Molly Roberts, a new artist in residence, who's an absolute hoot and a holler. She told us of her pet chicken named Romeo who typically accompanies her everywhere, most often in her purse. Later, we stopped by Ooey Gooey chocolates where the Peekaboos were on display. The Peekaboos are homemade chocolate chip cookies with rich icing in between and they reminded me of the Double Doozy cookies Kristy and I would buy to take into the movies with us when we were kids.

At Willow Spring Mercantile, Daphne had wine tastings and live music and she herself was adorned with the work of the artist in residence. Lee Genoway is the designer of Envisage Vintage Jewelry and I found much of her work breathtaking. Much of the jewelry involves antique stopwatches and the detail of the work is astounding. The piece I have pictured at top involves a Malaysian beetle who's natural emerald hue and red eyes make for a mesmerizing centerpiece to one of the stopwatches. Check out her site at http://envisagevintage.com/.

We finished off the night with a relaxing dinner at Ventana with Keith's parents. I had the delicious Bruschetta Burger and Keith had the housemade lasagna which was huge and yummy. He also got the last piece much to the chagrin of some of the other diners. We all split a magnificent piece of housemade blackberry cheesecake with a walnut crust for dessert.









The creativity was evident all around town tonight.